With barely three weeks remaining before the beginning of the 76th season of the UAAP, a surprise announcement was made when Juno Sauler was named the head coach of the DLSU Green Archers. There was hardly any time left for preparation before the team’s critics began to dismantle the team with their words, as some even began to project that the Green Archers would not make the Final Four.
Just 15 years ago though, a man by the name of Franz Pumaren was in the same situation as he took over the head coaching job of the Green Archers with just a few weeks remaining before the start of the UAAP. The ensuing events are well known amongst the Lasallian community, as the team would win four straight championships during Pumaren’s first four years at the helm.
This time around, a similar situation has dawned upon us and though the critics have had a field day with this sudden coaching change, the faithful are going into the UAAP with hopeful aspirations that this year will be something special. Sauler is one of the biggest reasons why. Those well traversed in the world of the country’s most popular sport know La Salle’s newest coach as one of the brightest young minds in the game today.
The son of a former college varsity basketball player, Sauler started playing basketball at a very young age. “During summer afternoons, we (Sauler and his father) would go out and shoot, but it wasn’t a serious thing for me. I tried out and was cut several times from my grade school team but I finally made it in high school and from then, it became serious,” shares the standout from De La Salle Zobel.
Upon his graduation from high school, Sauler moved on to DLSU where he majored in Economics and suited up for the Green Archers as well. His spot on the team didn’t come easy though, and he shares, “Yes, I considered other schools because I was offered to play for them, but my main priority was La Salle. I decided to study in La Salle even if I knew that I would have a hard time making the team. They were star-studded then and they were winning championships before I entered the school and I knew I had no place in the team, but I still wanted to go to school in La Salle.”
Sauler eventually made it to the team during his final three years in college, from 1992 up until 1994. When asked about his fondest memory, the stoic mentor says, “Just being a part of the team and playing with the team for three years, everything that happened was a memorable experience for me—the highs and lows of it. It’s the whole thing and you can’t just define it with one single moment and one single play.”
After his graduation from DLSU, Sauler ventured into the corporate world for two years, but the tug of basketball was too much for him and he decided to return to the hard court. He played in the PBL for two conferences and before the 1998 UAAP season, he joined the Green Archers’ coaching staff as an assistant coach.
“One thing I like is trying to help out others so I wanted to share what I learned and give back to the sport so I said, ‘Why not try out coaching? I could stay around the sport and help and teach,’” shares Sauler on his reason for venturing into coaching.
After a year on the sidelines with the Green Archers, he took over the Lady Archers as head coach in 1999 and won three straight titles during his three seasons with the team; during this span, he was also handling the DLSZ Juniors Basketball team. In 2002, he decided to move on and become an assistant coach for Barangay Ginebra in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Late in 2011, Gee Abanilla was named the head coach of the Green Archers after a tumultuous season which saw the team finish at sixth place for the second time in three years. Sauler was named one of the assistants and his tactical expertise was invaluable, helping establish the league’s top defense, allowing opposing teams last UAAP season an average of just 64.6 points per game.
When asked about what it takes to make it to the top of the heap, he shares, “There’s no secret and each team has its own identity, but the clichés come in such as hard work, discipline, commitment, sacrifices and if you want to talk about x’s and o’s, there’s execution.”
Though he is still a relative stranger to the common basketball fan, Sauler’s basketball genius will finally get to shine on the big stage with his appointment as the Green Archers’ head coach. Come the end of this UAAP season though, his feats on the sidelines will definitely get him the attention that he truly deserves.